chapter  1
14 Pages

Re-introducing Informal Criminal Justice

The persistence - and perhaps even expansion - of vigilantism is clearly due in part to the perception that crime is worsening and the formal criminal justice system is incapable of dealing with it. The end of apartheid and the advent of democracy has not been accompanied by any perceived improvement in the efficacy of the criminal justice system. Since 1994 newspapers have regularly published reports of vigilante action by members of the public, often involving the brutal punishment of supposed offenders. The extent of citizen participation in and support for vigilantism reflects the extent of crime and disorder and the real incapacity of the formal criminal justice system to deal with it. 'Community courts' are often contrasted with 'vigilantism', and it is claimed that strengthening 'community courts' will lead to less 'vigilantism'. Vigilantism is implicit in even the most peaceful forms of community court.